Flex works best

Airlines in South Africa have identified key aspects to leverage off when dealing with SMEs. Chief amongst these is the need for flexibility. Airlines have created targeted tools in the hope of bridging the gap between SMEs and corporate travel services they need.

At Comair, kulula work – the direct corporate distribution department – is designed to service the SME market. “We tailor-make corporate deals for the SME market,” says Dawn Weir, head of kulula work. Kulula work has identified sports people and musicians as growing markets for domestic travel. “We offer the ‘kulula loves Music’ and ‘kulula loves Sport’ campaigns, offering these travellers specific benefits,” says Weir.

FlySafair has built an online booking platform that, according to Kirby Gordon, head of sales and distribution at the airline, was designed with the SME market in mind. “This facilitates easy, regular bookings. It has features that will allow for reporting for example, so that the small businesses can see what their spend looks like and where they’ve been travelling.” He notes that a simple reconciliation tool, like those offered by FlySafair is a key need for SMEs to manage corporate travel. Other features of the system make the booking process easier: “The system saves passenger details so the SME does not have to type in the details every time they book business travel. So we try to make life easier from that perspective.”

At Airlink, flexible fare structures allow customers to book according to their needs. “This is targeted at all aspects of the market, including SMEs,” says Rodger Foster, ceo and md of Airlink. 

Gordon says FlySafair is undertaking research into the needs of SMEs in South Africa and has already identified flexible policies as key. Weir adds that kulula work offers customers flexibility for bookings and cancellations. “We also have a 20kg extra free baggage allowance for musicians and sportsman,” as another aspect of flexibility targeted at specific types of business travellers.

Finally, payment solutions are key to the airline/SME relationship. Airlines are addressing this in a number of ways. Foster notes: “We are not an organisation that runs on credit but there are ways we can assist SMEs. Sometimes small enterprises don’t have the same volume of travellers as the larger corporations but we are sensitive to that and can work with them.” Both FlySafair and kulula offer invoicing options. Gordon says: “We have contracts in place, sometimes with the requirement of a trading deposit. Depending on the nature of the relationship, we offer a line of credit. They then have the ability to be invoiced weekly, fortnightly or monthly.” He explains that this makes the booking process easier, eliminating the need for credit cards and making it easier to monitor expenditure.

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